Published: Monday, April 18, 2016
Itís a Carnival Life
By Julia Nazimov
Reading Eagle, June 8, 2003

Family and FriendsThey’re a staple of the summer season in small towns, suburbs and small cities everywhere; a part of our collective consciousness. They’re the local carnivals, sponsored by your local fire department, church or community center.

Going to a local carnival is not like going to Hershey Park or Dorney Park, but for families, it’s almost as much fun and more affordable. It’s a chance to not only give the kids something special to do, but to socialize with friends and neighbors you maybe haven’t seen since last summer.

Carnivals are especially meaningful for the Imes family of Douglasville, which for three generations has successfully operated and grown it own carnival business.

Kim Imes, whose husband Joseph, one of the founders sons, compares family carnivals to family farms. Like farmers, their work is seasonal, is dependent on the weather and is regulated by the state Department of Agriculture.

Betty J. Imes and her late husband, Warren Imes, got into the business about 50 years ago, and the result is Oscar’s Amusements Inc. The Douglasville-based firm travels around Berks, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties during the warmer months.

All but one of Betty and Warren Imes’ six children are in the family business, and the only son who followed a different career path – Michael, a schoolteacher in Milwaukee paid his way through college working at the carnival.

“It’s almost like a genetic thing,” said Kim. Even her children seem to have inherited that gene, she said. “My children (who are 14, 12, and 5) just love it”. Kim said she feels very strongly about dispelling the popular image of carnivals and carnival workers.

Oscar’s Amusement and similar operations are wholesome, family-orientated businesses working primarily at fund-raisers for churches and other community organizations, she said.

“We are a small company that travels only 40 miles from our home,” Kim said “We do not live in trailers on the carnival grounds. We employ local help. Our objective and sole purpose is to raise money for nonprofit organizations.”

Because they are locally based, they have a regular crew, almost mostly local people, and they pay then benefits. Almost all their engagements are within an hour’s drive – so they can come home at night.

Everywhere they go, they have contracts with community nonprofit organizations to stage the carnival, and have worked with many of those organizations for years. The nonprofit organization gets a percentage of the take, and can make more profit if members of the organization get involved as security or traffic control, or set up their own concession stands on the carnival grounds.

“Our company gets paid on a percentage basis,” she said. “We receive a percentage of the gross receipts. Our committees sell tickets and manage the ticket booths and at the end of each week we reconcile and receive our portion. We usually run on five-year contracts,” Kim said.

Kim also stressed the safety of carnivals. The department of agriculture spot-checks them regularly, and carnival owners inspect their own rides daily. While summer is by far the busiest season, there’s plenty to do in the winter. There’s always a convention in the winter where they go to check out new rides and concessions.

“We try to add a new ride every year,” Kim Said. “We try to keep things fresh.” Oscar’s has 23 rides from kiddie to adult thrill rides, including a Ferris Wheel, a Tilt-A-Whirl, a giant Slide, a Super Sizzler, and a Carousel.

The conventions are attended by other carnival operators and many of the companies which make the rides for the small town carnivals. There are some specialized companies all over this country and in Europe, which make the rides. This year’s new ride is called the Star Trooper. “It’s their new toy,” Kim said of her husband and children.
Oscars Amusements
180 Amity Park Road
Douglassville, PA  19518

Phone: 484-651-7056
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